Items include tee shirts with ‘Trump’ sprawled across flag, Trump family crest in lieu of stars
Despite Donald Trump wanting to “make it clear that he is not exploiting the office of the presidency for his personal benefit,” yesterday his online Trump Store debuted a collection of merchandise featuring the U.S. president’s last name and family crest blazoned across the American flag.
Items include the “faded American flag tee” ($36), a t-shirt with the Trump family crest where the stars should be on a flag-inspired design ($32), and a driver head cover ($120) designed to make “Trump” more prominent than “USA” when in a golf bag.
Not all of the 11 American flag items are listed as “made in America” in their descriptions on the Trump Store’s website: That designation is noticeably absent from the stars and stripes tumbler ($24).
The Trump Store, of course, has been promoting the new line on social media, including in a 55-second video shared on multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts (due to a formatting constraint, select the link to watch the video).
Beyond the president’s for-profit business peddling merch featuring both his name and American flag imagery, the Trump Store’s new collection takes advantage of some synergy with the Trump administration:
The Trump Store’s advertising has pegged its new line to the Fourth of July—a holiday the president also has been emphasizing with his “Salute to America.”
Two days before Trump’s new U.S. flag merchandise debuted, President Trump brought the stars and stripes into the forefront of the news cycle by endorsing a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.
(Apparently its not desecrating the flag when it’s the U.S. president’s name plastered across it on a $36 t-shirt.)
This new line of merchandise featuring iconic American imagery seems contrary to the plan Trump Organization attorney Sherri Dillon laid out in a pre-inauguration press conference:
President-elect Trump wants there to be no doubt in the minds of the American public that he is completely isolating himself from his business interests. He instructed us to take all steps realistically possible to make it clear that he is not exploiting the office of the presidency for his personal benefit…He has also directed that no communications of the Trump Organization, including social media accounts, will reference or be tied to President-elect Trump’s role as president of the United States or the office of the presidency.
The American flag, of course, is featured on merchandise from other brands. But those companies aren’t owned by the U.S. president, a person who, again, wants to “make it clear that he is not exploiting the office of the presidency for his personal benefit.”
The Trump Store’s summer collection is not the Trump Organization’s first foray into profiting from iconic American imagery.
In March 2018, it “ordered the manufacture of new tee markers for golf courses that are emblazoned with the seal of the president of the United States,” reported Katherine Sullivan for ProPublica and WNYC’s Trump, Inc. (Per that article, “Under federal law, the seal’s use is permitted only for official government business. Misuse can be a crime.”)
And this March, the Trump Store debuted merchandise that prominently featured the White House. Shortly thereafter, it removed a wrapper from bars of soap that depicted the White House underneath “Trump Hotels,” although it kept peddling similarly designed gifts like coffee mugs (made in Thailand) and shot glasses (made in China). In April, the Trump Store announced it would discontinue that line altogether. But two months later, several items remain available. Some of that swag is now discounted, meaning it may be your last chance to buy merchandise that never should have existed—just as Trump-branded U.S. flag swag hit the market.
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A thought on where often-absent U.S. ambassador to Canada, Kelly Craft, may be spending some of her time
From “Trump’s U.N. nominee was ‘absent’ ambassador” by Lauren Gardner for Politico yesterday:
President Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations—current U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft—was frequently absent from her post in Ottawa, raising questions about her level of engagement with the job, according to officials in the United States and Canada…
Federal Aviation Administration records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Politico show that a private jet registered to Craft’s husband and used by the ambassador made 128 flights between the United States and Canada during a 15-month span of her tenure in Ottawa, the equivalent of a round trip once a week.
From “Trump announces nomination of Kelly Knight Craft to be ambassador to United Nations” by Philip Rucker and Anne Gearan for The Washington Post in February:
The Crafts also have been repeat, high-paying customers at Trump’s hotel in Washington, according to a list of “VIP Arrivals” distributed to hotel staff on June 19, 2018. That list, obtained by The Washington Post, was intended to help staff identify the Trump International Hotel’s most important customers as they checked in.
The Crafts were listed as gold-level members of the Trump Card rewards program when they checked in for a three-day stay. They were also described as “high-rate” customers, and their listing bore the notation R(20), which former Trump Hotels employees have said indicates customers who’ve stayed at least 20 times. That was an unusually high number among the hundreds of Trump hotel guests whose VIP listings have been reviewed by The Post.
A glimpse of the foreign officials, government employees, politicians, lobbyists, and the like who patronize or appear at Trump businesses. Most people shown here have reasons to want to influence the Trump administration, rely on its good graces for their livelihoods, or should be providing oversight. Additionally, high-profile guests serve as draws for paying customers.
In D.C. for the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals conference (“We will advocate and encourage financial institutions, GSEs, and government agencies to create programs that suit their unique needs.”) this group visited the head of government’s hotel.
In February, a photographer promoted his work by sharing pictures from a U.S. Marine’s wedding at the commander-in-chief’s hotel.
Other Trump Organization news
“Trump Organization international partner says an ‘aggressive global expansion’ is underway” by Walker Davis for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (involved in two emoluments lawsuits against President Trump)
Trump Hotel D.C. managing director Mickael Damelincourt shared a picture showing both the hotel and where many of its best customers work.
President Trump chose not to divest; Americans need to know who’s paying him
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House investigations, current status (latest change, June 11, 2019)
The committee sent a inquiry to Deutsche Bank AG on its ties to Trump, according to the bank on Jan. 24. On March 1, chair Rep. Maxe Waters (D–CA) said the bank is cooperating with her committee and that staffers from the panel have met with bank employees in New York. On March 11, the committee requested documents on Trump’s businesses from Capital One; the bank “said it was already preserving documents but needs a subpoena in order to comply” per Politico. On April 15, that subpoena was issued. All told, the committee reportedly has subpoenaed nine banks for information about President Trump’s finances. President Trump, Don. Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and their businesses sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One on April 30, however, in an attempt to prevent them from sharing financial records with Congress. Deutsche Bank reportedly has been willing to cooperate with lawmakers. On May 3, the Trumps filed for a preliminary injunction to block the subpoenas. But judge Edgardo Ramos declined to issue that injunction on May 22, saying that the financial institutions can comply with the lawmakers’ request. The Trumps’ appealed that ruling on May 24. The lawmakers and Trumps agreed to refrain from enforcing the subpoenas until after the appellate court issues its ruling. The court announced it will expedite the briefing process, which will end on June 18, and hold a hearing held shortly thereafter.
Chair Rep. Elliot Engel (D–NY) “plans to investigate whether President Donald Trump’s businesses are driving foreign policy decisions, including whether Trump violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution in the process” per CNN on Jan. 23.
On March 4, the committee “served document requests to 81 agencies, entities, and individuals believed to have information relevant to the investigation,” according to a statement by the panel. Among the individuals the committee requested documents from are Trump Organization EVPs Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, EVP and COO Michael Calamari, CFO Alan Weisselberg, EVP and chief legal officer Alan Garten, Trump tax attorney Sherri Dillon, longtime Trump executive assistant Rhona Graff, former Trump advisor Felix Sater, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, and Trump associate and inaugural chair Tom Barrack. The committee received “tens of thousands” of documents by the March 18 deadline the letters set for responses, according to its chair, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D–NY). Among the respondents: Barrack, Steve Bannon, and the National Rifle Association. But more than half of the targets had not replied by April 3, two weeks after the deadline. On that day, the committee authorized subpoenas for former White House aides Bannon, Ann Donaldson, Hope Hicks, Donald McGahn, and Reince Priebus, per Politico. And on May 21, the committee did in fact subpoena Hicks and Donaldson. Attorneys for the Trump Organization, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump did not respond to Politico’s inquires if their clients planned to reply. The committee is considering making additional document requests, including to Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
The committee interviewed Felix Sater on March 21.
On Feb. 6, chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D–CA) issued a statement that said his committee would investigate links or coordination between the Russian government/related foreign actors and individuals associated with Trump’s businesses, as well as if foreign actors sought to compromise or hold leverage over Trump’s businesses.
On Feb. 10, Schiff said the committee would investigate Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, a major lender to the Trump Organization. Earlier, on Jan. 24, the committee sent an inquiry to Deutsche Bank AG on its ties to Trump, according to the bank. On Feb. 28, an aide said the panel expects to interview Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.
During testimony on March 6, Michael Cohen turned over documents that allegedly show how Trump’s then-personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, edited Cohen’s statement regarding Trump Tower Moscow. Cohen later read this revised statement before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. In closed-door testimony in March, Cohen claimed the president submitted a false insurance claim regarding a fresco in Trump Tower. Felix Sater, who was connected to the Trump Moscow project, was scheduled to testify in an open hearing on March 27, but that has been postponed.
Schiff hired a veteran prosecutor experienced with combating Russian organized crime to lead this investigation.
The committee is also seeking to interview Trump inauguration organizer Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.
On March 11, the committee requested documents on Trump’s businesses from Capital One; the bank “said it was already preserving documents but needs a subpoena in order to comply” per Politico. On April 15, that subpoena was issued. All told, the committee reportedly has subpoenaed nine banks for information about President Trump’s finances. President Trump, Don. Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and their businesses sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One on April 30, however, in an attempt to prevent them from sharing financial records with Congress. Schiff said Deutsche Bank has been willing to cooperate with lawmakers. On May 3, the Trumps filed for a preliminary injunction to block the subpoenas. But judge Edgardo Ramos declined to issue that injunction on May 22, saying that the financial institutions can comply with the lawmakers’ request. The Trumps’ appealed that ruling on May 24. The lawmakers and Trumps agreed to refrain from enforcing the subpoenas until after the appellate court issues its ruling. The court announced it will expedite the briefing process, which will end on June 18, and hold a hearing held shortly thereafter.
Oversight and Reform
Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings’s (D–MD) staff “has already sent out 51 letters to government officials, the White House, and the Trump Organization asking for documents related to investigations that the committee may launch,” on Jan. 13. In a Feb. 15 letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Cummings said the committee received documents showing White House attorney Stefan Passantino and long-time Trump personal attorney Sheri Dillon provided “false information” to the Office of Government Ethics regarding Michael Cohen’s “hush-money payments.” As a result, Cummings wants to depose Passantino and Dillon; the White House, however, rejected Cummings’ request to interview Passantino. And on Feb. 27, Cohen testified to the committee about those payments and other Trump Organization business practices, which could lead to allegations of possible insurance fraud. The next day, House Democrats signaled they would seek testimony from Trump Organization officials whom Cohen alleged were implicated, including Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and CFO Allen Weisselberg.
On March 6, Cummings requested information from the GSA about its reversal of an earlier decision to relocate FBI headquarters, which is located across the street from the Trump Hotel D.C. And on April 12 Cummings wrote to the GSA again, this time requesting all monthly reports from the Trump Hotel D.C., information about any liens on the hotel, a slew of correspondence between the Trump Org and GSA, and legal opinions regarding the Trump Org’s compliance with the lease. Cummings gave an April 26 deadline; staffers for the committee and Cummings have not replied to inquiries asking if GSA replied and to what extent.
The committee also has requested 10 years of Trump’s financial records. And on March 11, the committee requested documents on Trump’s businesses from Capital One; the bank “said it was already preserving documents but needs a subpoena in order to comply” per Politico. On April 12, Cummings notified committee members that he plans to subpoena Mazars USA, Trump’s accounting firm, for his financial statements. President Trump, the Trump Organization, and the Trump Hotel D.C. sued Cummings and Mazars USA on April 22 in an attempt to prevent the release of Trump’s financial records. Cummings postponed the subpoenas’ deadline while the courts address the president’s suit. On May 20, U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta denied the president’s motion. Trump appealed the next day and two days after that, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ judges agreed to fast track the case, with oral arguments scheduled for July 12. But without further relief, Mazars could start turning over documents as soon as next week. In a filing on June 10, Trump’s attorneys argued that the committee’s subpoena was invalid because “it is an effort to investigate alleged legal violations—power that is vested in the executive, not Congress.”
Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
Transportation committee chair Rep. Peter DeFazio (D–OR) and subcommittee chair Dina Titus (D–NV) sent a letter to GSA administrator Emily Murphy on Jan. 22 asking for all communication between the GSA and members of the Trump family dating back to 2015, an explanation of how the D.C. hotel calculates its profits, profit statements since the hotel opened, any guidance from the White House regarding the lease, and whether or not Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are recused from participating in decisions regarding the property. GSA has “sent a partial response and the subcommittee is reviewing it,” according to a senior House staffer familiar with the situation. When hearings begin, it is likely that Murphy will be the first person called to testify, according to a person familiar with the subcommittee’s plans. Titus is hiring additional staffers to handle the investigation.
On March 6, Titus requested information from the GSA about its reversal of an earlier decision to relocate the FBI headquarters, which is located across the street from the Trump Hotel D.C. NPR reported on March 15 that, “Democrats on the committee want to know, among other things, whether there was any political pressure exerted on the GSA by the Trump White House, presidential campaign or transition team. They also want to know how the Trump Hotel calculates its profits, segregates incoming money from foreign governments, and what the Trump Organization owes the GSA on a monthly or annual basis.’”
Ways and Means
On April 3, chairman Richard Neal (D–MA) requested six years of Trump’s personal tax returns, as well as the returns for eight of his businesses (including that of the trust that holds the president’s ownership stake in the D.C. hotel). After the IRS missed Neal’s deadline and then an extension, Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin said he’d make a decision whether or not to release the returns by May 6. He declined to do so. On May 10, the committee subpoenaed Mnuchin and IRS commissioner Charles Rettig, giving them a May 17 deadline to turn over Trump’s tax returns. Mnuchin again declined to comply. Neal suspects he’ll know his next move by May 24, but earlier he indicated he’ll take the issue to the federal courts.
Also, the subcommittee on Oversight held its first hearing on “legislative proposals and tax law related to presidential and vice-presidential tax returns” on Feb. 7. “We will ask the question: Does the public have a need to know that a person seeking the highest office in our country obeys tax law?” said chair Rep. John Lewis (D–GA). Experts in tax law testified.
Legal cases, current status (latest change, May 30, 2019)
D.C. and MD attorneys general’s emoluments lawsuit
Official capacity—On Dec. 20, 2018, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it would hear the president’s appeal of district court rulings that allowed the case to proceed to discovery. The appellate court halted discovery in the case. Discovery had started Dec. 3 and was scheduled to run through Aug. 2, 2019, with the AGs having subpoenaed the Trump Organization, including its Scottish golf courses; the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, and Treasury and the GSA; and the state of Maine. Oral arguments on the appeal occurred on March 19; by all accounts the three-judge panel (all Republican appointees, including one who was a selection of President Trump’s) were skeptical of the AGs’ case. D.C. AG Karl Racine pledged to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
Individual capacity—On Dec. 14, Trump’s personal attorneys appealed the denial of their motion to dismiss the case, also to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Dec. 19, the AGs replied to Trump’s motion for a stay pending that appeal by voluntarily dismissing the claims against Trump in his “individual capacity to allow the claims against President Trump in his official capacity to move forward expeditiously.” (The AGs only brought suit against Trump in his individual capacity after the judge suggested they do so.) Trump’s personal attorneys, on Dec. 21, opposed the motion to dismiss at the district level, saying the appeals court now has jurisdiction and accusing the AGs of “gamesmanship.”
Democratic senators and representatives’ emoluments lawsuit
On Sept. 28, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled that the legislators have standing to sue. Trump’s Justice Department attorneys filed an interlocutory appeal on Oct. 22. On Jan. 30, 2019, the plaintiffs’ filed a notice of supplemental authority, notifying the court of the GSA inspector general’s report that criticized GSA for failing to consider if the Trump Hotel D.C.’s lease was in compliance with the Constitution after Trump became president. Two days later, the president’s attorneys argued that the IG’s conclusion was not inconsistent with Trump’s argument, but that the judge should ignore that report anyway because the IG has no expertise in interpreting or applying the foreign emoluments clause. On April 30, Sullivan denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the suit. While the president’s attorneys have a supplemental brief due on May 28, on May 14 they filed a motion to stay the proceedings while they appeal Sullivan’s decision. A week later, the lawmakers opposed that motion. On May 28, the plaintiffs proposed discovery taking place from June 20 through September 27 with them reviewing documents and taking depositions from the Trump Organization and other corporations in which the president has an ownership interest.
CREW et. al’s emoluments lawsuit
Cork’s unfair competition lawsuit
Judge Richard J. Leon dismissed the case on Nov. 26, 2018, writing “Cork has failed to state a claim for unfair competition under D.C. law.” On Dec. 10, Cork’s attorneys filed a notice of appeal and on Jan. 10, 2019 they submitted a statement of issues to be raised. Cork filed its first appellant brief on May 15, arguing “the District Court failed to recognize the evolving nature of the common law of unfair competition in the District of Columbia and erroneously treated the prior cases as if they were a series of statutes that Appellant had to satisfy to state a claim. Attorneys for the president and his hotel requested a 31-day extension for filing their brief, with Cork’s consent, which the court granted on May 28. Trump’s brief is now due on July 15.
Employees’ class-action suit alleging racial discrimination
D.C. superior court (direct link not available, search for case 2017 CA 006517 B)
Two of the three plaintiffs did not appear at a status hearing on Jan. 25, 2019; their cases were moved to arbitration. Via email, their attorney, A.J. Dhali, said his clients did not appear at the hearing because their case already had been moved to arbitration last year. The next status hearing is scheduled for Oct. 4.
Health inspections, current status (latest change, June 14, 2019)
❌BLT Prime and Benjamin Bar—nine violations on Aug. 10, 2018
❌Sushi Nakazawa—two violations on Aug. 10, 2018
✔️Banquet kitchen—no violations on May 16, 2019
✔️Pastry kitchen—one violations on May 16, 2019; it was corrected on site
✔️In-room dining—one violation on May 16, 2019; it was corrected on site
❌Northwest kitchen—three violations on May 16, 2019; two were corrected on site
✔️Gift shop—no violations on May 7, 2018
✔️Employee cafeteria—no violations on May 16, 2019
Is the Trump Organization selling merchandise that depicts the White House? (latest change, March 21, 2019)
One thing that (probably) has nothing to do with Trump’s businesses
From “The Southern Baptists are beset by two related fiascos” By The Economist’s Lexington columnist
So long as Southern Baptists put fighting abortion and gay rights before the acts of grace and social justice they once gave equal billing to, they have only one party to support: the Republicans, whose shrinking, white coalition is the future they are trying to escape.
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